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February 27, 2017

Melissa N. Cupp appointed to Fauquier J&D bench

“I’m really pleased to have been selected to do this job,” Melissa Cupp said. “And, I’m really hoping I’m going to do a good job.”
Melissa has a unique ability to communicate and deal with people, without generating a lot of angst. She’s traditionally been a peacemaker, which in the field of domestic relations, is a good characteristic to have.
— Doug Baumgardner, retired lawyer
Melissa N. Cupp
• Age: 43.

• Home: Sperryville.

• Work: Attorney specializing in domestic law, 1998 to present; appointed to 20th Circuit Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judgeship, effective July 1.

• Education: Law degree, University of Tulsa, Okla., 1998; bachelor’s degree, English with minor in Spanish, Frostburg (Md.) State University, 1995; Warren County High School, Front Royal, Va., 1991.

• Family: Husband, Ryan Campbell; two young children.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
For the first time, a woman will serve as Fauquier’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judge.

The Virginia General Assembly on Thursday, Feb. 23, unanimously elected Melissa N. Cupp of Sperryville to a six-year term on the bench.

Ms. Cupp’s term will begin July 1.

The 43-year-old attorney expects to get sworn into office in mid-June.

Ms. Cupp succeeds Jonathan S. Lynn, who retired in February after almost six years on the bench.

The 20th Judicial Circuit includes Fauquier, Rappahannock and Loudoun counties.

Ms. Cupp will handle cases in Fauquier and Rappahannock courts.

“I’m really pleased to have been selected to do this job,” she said. “And, I’m really hoping I’m going to do a good job.”

Raised in Warren County, Ms. Cupp has devoted almost all of her professional life to practicing domestic law, representing several area social services departments in cases of adoption, foster care, removal of endangered children from their homes and the termination of parental rights.

Ms. Cupp also represents abused, neglected or exploited older adults and adults with significant disabilities.

Helping families, especially children, in distress appealed to her for basically the same reasons as law school.

“One of the reasons I wanted to go to law school is because I felt being a lawyer was a way you could help people,” she said. “A lot of times people are having very difficult times when they come to see you. And, by the end of the case, they’re feeling a lot healthier, and their lives are heading in the right direction at the end of it.

“So, it’s very rewarding to do that kind of work.”

Ms. Cupp for “several years” had been interested in the Fauquier J&D court judgeship.

But, Judge Lynn’s decision to retire after one term “surprised” her, she said. “I thought we were going to keep him on the bench a few more years.”

Judge Lynn toyed with the idea of seeking a second term.

But, “I didn’t want to get 18 months, two years into a second term and decide, ‘Hey, I’m going to retire’,” the 68-year-old judge said in a December interview. “I think it made more sense to make the decision now.”

Ms. Cupp views the judgeship as a chance to serve the community in a different way.

Though she has no “list of things that I immediately want to change,” Ms. Cupp hopes to have regular “court-users’ meetings” with probation officers, public defenders, prosecutors and private attorneys “to really listen to what they have to say and what they think we’re doing well and what we think we can do better.”

Former colleagues believe Ms. Cupp will be a “great judge,” as retired Rappahannock County lawyer Doug Baumgardner put it. “I know she’ll do me proud."

“Melissa has a unique ability to communicate and deal with people, without generating a lot of angst,” said Mr. Baumgardner, who hired her to join his Washington, Va., law firm in 2003. “She’s traditionally been a peacemaker, which in the field of domestic relations, is a good characteristic to have.”

About 15 years ago, he and Ms. Cupp had appeared in Culpeper’s J&D court to argue a domestic relations case, Mr. Baumgardner recalled.

“She was on the other side of it,” he said. “I, of course, was the old guy — I’m 66 years old now. She was a young lady, maybe in her early 30s at that time. And she whipped me good. She put on a good case and prevailed.

“And, I was so impressed with that, I said this was somebody I wanted to have by my side practicing law.”

Warrenton lawyer Michael T. Brown and Ms. Cupp worked together at Mr. Baumgardner’s firm for about 11 years.

“Melissa’s absolutely the perfect fit for this judgeship,” said Mr. Brown, a member of the Warrenton law firm of Walker Jones. “She’s a very empathetic person. And, I think if you’re going to be a successful family law lawyer, that’s a quality you have to have.

“She has a sense of what is right and wrong.”

Unafraid of long hours, Ms. Cupp brings a strong work ethic to practice of law, he said.

She also has a sharp legal mind, according Mr. Brown. “Applying the law to a set of facts is something she is very good at, and that’s going to help her out in a judicial setting. . . . She’s going to make a really good judge.”

Fauquier’s Deputy Public Defender Kevin J. Gerrity, 39, also made a bid for the judgeship.

Earlier this year, Ms. Cupp received the Rappahannock and Fauquier bar associations’ endorsements.

The Fauquier bar deemed her “highly qualified” and Mr. Gerrity, “qualified” to serve.

A Warrenton resident, Mr. Gerrity declared his interest the job after the organization already had met and endorsed Ms. Cupp.

Ms. Cupp believes she will have no difficulty making the shift from advocate to objective arbiter when she takes the bench.

“It’s part of my nature that I see things from both sides,” she said. “Even as an attorney, I could see it from the other perspective. Sometimes, your job as a (lawyer) is to help your client is to see it from the other perspective, so they can make a decision, because it’s usually about their kids.”
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TooTrue · February 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm
She sounds like a wonderful choice from another county rather than this good ole boy one.
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